On Appearances

On Appearances

Little girls in our culture begin absorbing and emulating their mother’s preoccupation with physical adornment (earrings, mascara, eyeshadow, lipstick, nail polish, etc.) from a fairly early age.

This preoccupation with appearances is largely a cultural phenomenon, but is doubtless fueled by a primal drive to enhance sexual desirability. Also, in cultures where women significantly outlive their procreative years, cosmetics serve to help mask signs of aging…and thus sustain an illusion of remaining procreatively competitive.

Although cosmetics and other decorative physical adornments are widespread,* there are at least a few (mostly primative) cultures that have no apparent need for them. And why not? Possibly because women find it just as easy to attract attention, produce children, and successfully raise families without them. In fact, from their point of view, a preoccupation with appearances would be considered comically promiscuous.

Of course people who live within an ‘adorned’ culture don’t find it peculiar at all. Yet their reaction to a culture that sports adornments unlike their own is revealing.wordpress_on-appearances-male For example, women in western cultures, who routinely suspend imaginative objects from their earlobes, find absurd a similar preoccupation with ‘procreative advertising’ that’s practiced by males in Papua New Guinea. There, men traditionally encase their penis with a tapered carrot-like root that ranges from 12″ to 36″ long. They then tie their root-sheathed penis to a cord around their waist to keep it erect. And thus they spend all their waking hours sporting a chest-high “carrot-dick” waving about in front of them; removing it only as needed to urinate, perform intercourse, or sleep.

In reality, to an outside observer, there is little difference between painted faces, pendulous earrings, or root-sheathed weenies. The question they invariably ask is the same: “What the hell is that for?”

* * *

*In the United States alone, it is estimated that more money is spent on beauty products and physical adornment than on education or social services.

16 comments on “On Appearances

  1. William, will you crucify me for openly admitting that I LOVE makeup? And jewelery? And all kinds of accessories? And I have loved them for as long as I can remember. My dad opposes makeup, or he’s at least completely indifferent to it, and prefers natural beauty. My mother has been ill for such a long time she couldn’t care less either. But I… I have always been fascinated with it. I love playing with all the colors and shades and brushes and tints and powders (call me crazy but I even have a fetish for the boxes and jars they come in), and I so adore being someone else every day, once a Carmen, then a Lolita, then my usual Jade, and maybe a bit of a Raphael Madonna (Mauresque version) some other time. I believe women need to role-play much more than do men. Most of us “direct” their own lives to a great extent, you know, like placing the camera in a certain angle, changing costumes, and sometimes getting rid of certain protagonists. often you feel the need to get rid of yourself. And instead of resorting to a razor blade, you grab your mascara (though in the beginning both alternatives are equally messy :-))) ).

    I also have to admit I spend a truckload of money on this passion. But I spend an at least equal amount on books, and theater, and exhibitions. You can go ahead and burn me at stake for it (though I am much more fun to have around in a beach-Honey-towel context), I will never renounce my lipsticks and glosses and eye-shadows and mascaras and nail polishes and and and. I would be terribly bored without them… And though I agree that going “au naturel” is sometimes the best option, I also think that some outfits or circumstances call for a bit of make-up. You cannot really belly-dance without smoky eyes and golden lip-gloss ;-). But I can promise one thing: no make-up to the beach. I hope that will work in terms of atonement.

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  2. “William, will you crucify me for openly admitting that I LOVE makeup?”

    This piece is intentionally one-dimensional. If it had been two-dimensional I would have put more emphasis on the cultural importance of ‘makeup’ and/or the wearing of ‘accessories.’ It would also have included something about the right to ‘accessorize’ (or not) however you like, cultural pressures notwithstanding. If I, for example, were a member of a small, African hunting/gathering group, and wanted to advertise my hunting prowess to the girls (for reasons we all understand), I might then walk around the camp with the fore leg and hoof of an antelope hanging from my butt…to indicate that I was able to keep ‘me and mine’ well fed…removing it only when I needed to sit down, or poop. And if anyone pointed a finger and laughed, I’d likely show them how that ‘hunting prowess’ of mine might be applied to people pointing fingers.

    (But, again, this piece is intentionally one-dimensional. So please delete the above as soon as you’ve finished reading it. :-)

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  3. OK, at least now I know that you’re still alive. So what should I delete? I’d prefer not deleting anything. I love our talks. Are we still on for beach and Honey? Pleeeeease? Pretty please with Fourreau Noir on top?

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  4. So now you’re threatening me! :-))))

    I sort of feel like you have retreated somewhere… I don’t know how to explain it… Just let me know when you come out again. I really miss you.

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  5. Retreated? No, not at all, quite the contrary. You have sparked my interest (and respect) much more than you might guess. I’m just currently awash with stuff that must be done. I’ll respond with some depth this evening. Meantime, shouldn’t you be sleeping!!!

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  6. Yep, I should… but I’m up looking at pictures of handsome men instead ;-). Oh well. I guess it’s Effexor time for me. I’m really thinking about quitting this whole medication thing. Ok, I’ll be a good girl and go counting perfume bottles now. Or was it sheep?

    :-* Masaa al-khair

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    • Are you suggesting, for example: “The bigger his carrot, the smaller his stick?” If so, then how should one ‘conclude’ the inverse relationship suggested by: “The bigger her earrings, the smaller her…(?)”

      Just curious…

      ;-)

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    • Amazing? Of course! After all, has not ‘being amazed’ by ‘appearances’ been the driving force behind our creation of Toy Land these past 100 years or so? Who cares about what you think (if anything)? Much more important today is how what you ‘see’ makes you feel good…and then buy. Speaking of which, could I interest you in one of our latest, video-tipped, WiFi equipped, inflatable carrot dicks?

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